ffo the Editor.) ■'
Sir, —I noticed an advertisement in your issue of Friday, the" 12th inst., re Harbour Board elections, signed by Mr. J. H. Gimson. No doubt those directly interested will answer his queries; but I think I am justified in asking why Mr. J. H. Gunson demands that "all replies be -addressed to him, and signed," seeing that he and others of "The Band of Business Men" did not sign their names to the attacks on the people of this city though strenuous efforts were made to get them to disclose their identity.
The real questions governing the Harbour Board elections are not those appearing on the surface. It is not a matter of the validity or the invalidity of proxies, or how to obtain them without transgressing the law. It is a matter of harbour dues, storage, privilege, and power and patronage. It has been said that the grain merchants and agents have been working for certain; privileges in storage rates and time allowed for removal of goods which contrast most favourably as against the rates and time allowed to other importers. A .careful inquiry into these matters is now being made, and any attempt by private persons to use the sheds as free stores, and so save themselves the expense of storage in the city, such as importers of all other goods have to provide, will be resisted.
The votes for the Harbour Board are only exercisable by payers of dues. Some holders of votes may have been induced to pledge their votes, and, no doubt, reciprocal business interests will play a great part in the coming election; but voters will act wisely in witholding their votes until more light is thrown on the point referred to, and by making strict iuquiry into the real aims and motives of those who solicit their votes and their object in aspiring to office.
In any case, I think I may safely predict, after the recent inquiry into the Harbour Board elections, that public opinion will soon demand that at least half of the members of the Harbour Board be elected direct under the popular franchise.
Re licensing committee elections. Many and various are the alleged causes which led to the defeat of the pledged candidates on Tuesday, and most of the explanations given you by interested persons are (perhaps unconsciously) entirely wrong. The victory of the Nolicense party at the November elections was not gained, as they assert, by the total abstainers and Prohibitionists, but by the aid given to them by people who habitually use alcohol. Theso latter voted "No-license" foT various reasons, among which may be set down the following: —
(a) Objection to tied houses. (b) A desire for better bar accommodation and equipment in hotels.
(3) Demand for better quality of liquor—especially spirits.
(d) Abolition of barmaids
(c) An objection to ownership of the trade houses and interests by a few people, and
(f) Just a suspicion of Jew-baiting by ballot.
I regret to have to admit this last reason, but it existed, and its power was felt.
[Reasons (c) and (f) are capable of explanation, and the causes which led to them lie at the door of the No-license party; but it would require a separate letter to go thoroughly into the matter in order to clear it up and do justice.]
Added to those who voted for the reasons given above weie some who were carried away by the great excitement prevailing at the time, and they voted No-license out of pure wantonness and curiosity to see "what would happen."
When the elections were over the effect of the victory on the visitors became discernible. They imagined they had full and uncontrolled possession of the voting power of the people, and acted accordingly. Any person who had the temerity to differ from their views in public was promptly attacked in letters addressed to the daily Press and in advertisements framed by unknown people and unsigned. The members of the Nolicense party, and more especially those holding public positions, took on a different air and tone with the public. In the letters and advertisements of their paTty appearing in the Press they, by inference, arrogated to themselves tho sole right to nominate persons for public office; I and, in short, shewed by their general bthaviour that they had, or thought they had, full control of the municipal machine and meant to use it to the exclusion of all those Who did not own allegiance to their party and subscribe tc- their extreme views.
The public by this time began to take note of the steady influx of the members of the extremist party into all public bodies, and plans were freely discussed as to who were to fill certain public positions and offices. And it was also noticed that in no case was there any vacancy provided in high places for persons outside the victorious extremist party. Nor did the Press escape the ; general condemnation of these qfxtremists." If a Press notice was favourable to their views it was hailed with delight and quoted largely. If it was considered unfavourable the offending newspaper wag threatened with opposition. If (as once happened) a reporter understated the numbers present at a rival meeting, the error was promptly advertised in the Press, though thoss who were answerable for that advertisement must have known it was a mistake.
The licensing committee were not left long in peace after the November elections. The (alleged) overwhelming popular vote in favour of No-license was carefully held up and instilled into their minds. In churches and Sunday schools and from street platforms it was most vehemently proclaimed that the result of the November elections was not a direction from the people to the licensing committee to reduce the number of hotels as circumstances demanded in accordance with the licensing law—viz., not less than 5 per cent, nor more than 25 per cent.—but a mandate from the people to • reduce the maximum number which the law permitted. The Licensing Committee, influenced by the poll figures and the special pleading of the extremist party, pledged themselves to reduce the maximum number of hotels, and no doubt thought, with the extremists, . that the popular vote on Tuesday would be found to be in their favour.
My efforts on behalf of the citizens' ticket brought mc into touch with hundreds of voters, and I state emphatically that the reversal of the popular vote on Tuesday was mainly due to two causes —viz., fear and distrust. Fear of domination by the extremists and the religious sections that surround and support them, nnd from whom they cannot be dissociated;, and distrust of the extremists and the underlying motives for their lust of power, and of the extremes to which they are'prepared to go should they succeed in gaining control of the people.
In the company of others ijand in some instances by nay-
self), I. approached some of our leading, successful, business men nnd; citizens; of standing, and asked them to*" speak from our "platform—not "on the liquor question ;on the general,objects and claims of the League, and in no case did one of those interviewed by mc or in my presence agree to come fCnvard. The answer was practically alwayp the same. "Why should I lay myself''opento be attacked in the Press? I have been be"ore the public Tor years and them to the best of my ability. I .have a good business record and am independent. Why should I bring upon myself worry and trouble, which I knowit" will be impossible for mc to escape? ly agree with your platform and*your aims and objects, and will subscribe to them and vote for your candidatesj but please do not urge mc to come, on your platform." ■ r>-
One gentleman in particular, whocholda several public positions, one of them a most important one, spoke in the manner described above, and added: "Suifely T have enough trouble to face in my.- present positions without adding to-it by putting my nose into that hornets l nest known as tho No-license parly. ,t_ am with you heart and soul, and will vote for your ticket."
The rank and file of those who.-voted the Citizens' ticket mostly held similar views, and their principal reason for voting the Citizens' ticket was --a determination, if possible, to overthrow the No-license party for fear they should increase their hold on the people-, jof the city. r r
It may surprise you to learnt- that hundreds of total abstainers voted the Citizens' ticket, and hundreds.iofj-, others ■who voted with and supported them did not care, personally, one farfchipg how many hotels were shut down. These latter felt that the old committee threw their lot in with the No-license party, whom they considered the "common enemy," hence their support of the Citizens' ticket.
Those who think that the result of Tuesday's election shows sympathy for the wine and spirit merchants and brew>ers, are very wide of the mark. There was sympathy for the because it was felt that they were to be harshly and arbitrary dealt with at the instigation of an uncompromising, not to say bitter opponent; and : , that it would be more just, and more in accord with British ideas of fairness, to act as the law provided, and deal with each hotel on its -merits, and with ,due consideration for the requirements and convenience of the public. But Ido assure you that the vote's which caltied the day were cast more in opposition to the No-license party, and their following, their methods and aims, than in sympathy with any section of the trade. Believe mc, there is a very strong feeling in the mind 3of the people that "No-license" and "No-liquor" are not the Alpha and Omega of the party. There is a strong -.- distrust, amounting almost to a positive fear, that the aims and objects of the Nolicense party go much further than this. Many recall the outcry raised by the same extremist section of the people against running the trams on Sunday. Neither have they forgotten, their insistence, contrary to all accepted ideas of civil hospitality, on supplying our Imperial soldiers with nothing stronger than tea by way of liquid refreshment. And be it remembered, these soldiers were picked and tried men, some of whom had served the Empire with honour and distinction. Yet it was left to the then representatives of Auckland city to treat those highly disciplined men as untrustworthy weaklings. From time to time the voice of this would-be-dominant section is raised in protest against some of the, harmless amusements and indulgences of the people. It has been heard railing against Sunday trains, Sunday ferry boats, music on Sundays in our public parks. Sunday concerts, theatrical amusements of all kinds on any day of the week, dancing, and even the use oi tobacco is condemned by some of them. Horse-racing, of course, is quite taboo, and card playing j j i
In shoTt, sir, I wwild ask you seriously should the No-ficense party and their following, together with that other particularly truthful and most honourable section of moral censors, known to local fame as " The Band of Business Men" succeed in ohtaining control , of the public, what have the people to expect and to look forward to in the matter of freedom and enjoyment in their hours of leisure? And if the people should 'be graciously permitted to indulge in any, enjoyment or recreation, what form will-it be aUowed to take?
Sunday boating, sea-bathing, gardening —all are banned. What will the people be allowed to do that will afford them harmless pleasure and recreation without risk of their being sent to prison f
Those are a few of the questions the people are now asking themselves, and the answers are by no means satisfying. —I am, etc., '.' ■ DIM VIVIMU&.VIVAMUS. 13th March, 1009.
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